Catholic at Home: by Katie Sciba
Some Christmas mornings I wake up feeling spiritually underwhelmed. I don’t feel the holy wonder at the miracle of God being born upon Earth but instead feel disappointment in my own lack of real, faithful preparation for the Nativity. The previous weeks were spent fretting over decorating and shopping and preparing my house rather than preparing my heart for Jesus. And it shows. It always shows.
Luke 6:45 reads, “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” which indicates that what happens within us will make its way out for others to see, including whether we’re at peace or not. We want so much to have a truly joyful holiday, yet sometimes the roadblocks to joy go unattended or even unnoticed. In an imperfect world, there will always be obstacles to peace like busyness, self-comparison, and personal pain; yet the Lord provides antidotes for what can be a stressful time of year.
Every bit of preparation asks something of us, be it time, money, personal energy or thought. Rest is fleeting during Advent. Somehow, we’re supposed to maintain our normal lives while getting ready for one of the biggest holidays of the year.
It may seem counterintuitive, but now is the perfect time to keep calm and increase our prayer time. Anyone can advise buying fewer presents, wrapping early or strategizing grocery trips to stay ahead of the game; but what I propose is increasing time with the Lord. When Mary and Joseph frantically searched for their missing 12-year-old, they looked in all the wrong places until finally returning to the temple. When we’re frantic with busyness, going to the Father will restore peace. Adding a weekday Mass, confession or 10 minutes of conversation with Jesus in the car will bring peace.
Another spiritual obstacle to closeness with Christ is self-comparison. Regardless of whether we feel inferior or superior to our fellow man, self-comparison cuts the Source of our gifts out of the picture. When other families make the money we don’t, have the number of children we don’t, or are blessed in a way we feel we lack, God beckons us to take a good look at our lives.
A friend of mine used to pray, “Lord thank you for everything I have and everything I don’t have.” This simple prayer acknowledges the Father blesses and withholds things on purpose for the good of our souls. If someone has been blessed in a way that we desire for ourselves, we can ask God for it, and then trust that He will act for our benefit.
Deep in our culture is the emphasis on family during Christmas, and rightfully so. Our favorite Christmases become favorites because of the people who are closest to us. On the flip side, for those of us with strained or broken family relationships, holidays underscore pain and shine a light on what’s missing. Even if our families are relationally intact, we’re all walking around with tender spots or ongoing battles.
The story of humanity testifies that the balm for personal pain is vulnerability with the Lord. St. Therese said, “Prayer is a launching out of the heart toward God.” We should feel free to share our pains with Jesus, no matter how angry or hopeless we feel. Bishop Duca of Baton Rouge once told me it was OK to show God how angry I was, “He’s big enough. He can take it.”
In the weeks ahead, let’s deliberately choose to prepare our hearts for Christ’s birth by knocking down the walls that keep us from Him. When we decide to spend more time in the calm of prayer, examining the good in our lives and inviting Christ into our pain, we can let all other preparations flow from the resulting peace; and it will surely yield a far more joyful Christmas.